What is a ‘true’ Christian? There are people today who think they are Christians, but they are not. There are unbelievers who point to the bad behavior of some who claim to be Christians and say, “See, they behave worse than us, why would I want to be like them?” Both of these attitudes are based on a faulty understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Although this article will not be an exhaustive look at the attributes of a Christian, it is meant to motivate one to evaluate, or re-evaluate, one’s life to see if he or she truly understands what it means to make Jesus the Lord of one’s life.
The Bible tells us that, “…|all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). This means that everyone has sinned against God and is in need of forgiveness. The Bible’s message is clear that God has provided that forgiveness by the life, death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ (see Matt. 26:28; Mark 1:4, 3:29; Luke 1:77, 24:47; John 20:23; Acts 2:38, 5:31, 10:43, 13:38, 26:18; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:22, 10:18 for starters). When we trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior, realizing that we cannot do anything to save ourselves, we are forgiven of our sins and enter into a wonderful relationship with the Creator God.
…is not perfect
There is a struggle in the Christian’s life to always remain submitted to God, His will, and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. However, we are not always successful in this endeavor and sometimes we will sin. It is often said, and rightly so, that there was only one perfect person who ever lived, and His name is Jesus Christ . No matter how much we want to be sinless, oftentimes we do sin. However, even when we sin, our response to that sin determines what effect that sin will have on our walk of faith. If we try to excuse our sin, or if we throw up our hands and believe that we are helpless to resist the temptation to sin, then we will usually grow cold in our relationship to God and will not have the close walk with Him we desire. The Bible assures us that we never have to fall into sin, that God has provided a way to escape temptation (I Corinthians 10:13) and to resist the Devil (James 4:7). We must trust God to rescue us and strengthen us.
The Bible tells us that the duty, the basic reason we exist, is to worship God. The clearest biblical definition of worship is found throughout the Old and New Testaments in a form similar to, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30 ESV; see also Deut. 6:5, 11:1, 11:13, 13:3, 30:6; Joshua 22:5, 23:11; Matt. 22:37; Luke 10:27). If one does not have a sincere love for God in his or her heart, one should re-evaluate his or her relationship with God in light of biblical teaching.
…loves the Bible
“The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (Psalm 119:160 ESV; see also John 17:17). If one does not care what the Bible says, or does not have a love for its content, his or her faith is questionable. If one truly believes that the Bible is God’s Word to us, how can we say we love Him if we do not consider His Word vital to our walk of faith?
The ‘true’ Christian realizes that sin is unholy. The Bible is clear that it is sin that separates us from God. We are instructed to avoid evil (I Thessalonians 5:21-22; I John 4:1); therefore, we know that sin and evil have no legitimate place in the life of the Christian. Too many professing Christians do not understand the seriousness of sin; they do not understand how our holy God sees sin. God views sin so seriously that He sent His only Son to die on the cross in order to make a way for us to be freed from it and its effects. Sin separates us from God, it destroys families, lives, nations, and anything else it influences. There is no room for the acceptance or approval of sin in the Christian’s life.
Related reading: 5 Biblical Consequences of Sin 
…is motivated by love
The Bible is clear that, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (I John 4:8 ESV, see also John 13:34, 15:12, 17; I John 4:7, 16). Too many times, in current public debates, Christians treat those with whom they disagree in very un-loving ways. No matter how rude, crude, or socially unacceptable our opponents become, we must honor God in our actions and attitudes. We must always treat others with the love that God has graced us with. We must care for others, and treat them with respect, because God first loved us.
…is compelled to share the Gospel
The Christian has the answer to the question everyone wants answered. There is a hunger in every person’s heart that lets them know that, apart from a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, something is missing in their lives. The Christians knows that the Bread of Life (Jesus Christ) is the only thing that can truly satisfy this hunger. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35 ESV; see also John 6:48). Also, Jesus commanded us, as He did all of His disciples, to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV). A professing Christian, who has no desire that the Gospel be spread to a lost and hurting world, may not truly be a Christian at all.
A ‘true’ Christian is one who has had his or her sins forgiven through a faith relationship with Jesus Christ. We know that Christians aren’t perfect either. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we even willfully sin; however, the Bible tells us that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9 ESV). God is always willing to forgive us if we come to Him with a truly penitent heart.
We have also seen that certain attributes, attitudes, and actions accompany anyone who is truly a saved follower of Jesus Christ. Although not exhaustive, this article should give pause to anyone claiming to be a Christian but who has no love for God or His Word, who does not hate sin, who is not motivated by love, or who does not have the desire to see the Gospel’s message proclaimed.
May each of us say, with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV).
Another reading: 10 Awesome Attributes of God 
Resources – The Holy Bible, English Standard Version “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”